5 ways to work out with your kids

Exercise is beneficial in so many ways. It increases endorphins, leading to reduced stress and increased happiness, encourages healthy eating, builds muscle, increases confidence, improves coordination, and an extra perk for children is that it helps burn excess energy, which is optimal when bedtime comes around. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests that children over 6 get at least an hour of physical activity every day. Although we know exercise is good for our children, it’s hard to know how to work out with them, especially if they aren’t the active type. But, if we make time to work out with them, they’ll be more likely to get the exercise they need. Here are 5 ways to get your children (and yourself) moving.

1. Going for walks, hikes, or bike rides

These activities don’t require a lot of planning ahead and going outside is a great way to combine learning and exercise. There is so much to explore outside such as plants, animals, vehicles, and buildings. Since walking, hiking, and riding bikes is slower paced, it also gives plenty of opportunity to talk to your child. Boys respond especially well to discussing meaningful topics when they are doing an activity.

2. Have a dance party

Turn on some kid-friendly music and revive your dance moves. When you’re willing to dance, it can break down walls and help your child do the same. And almost anytime I’ve had dance parties with children the laughter quickly follows. You can even create an add-on game where one person shows a dance move, then the next person does the same move and adds-on a new move, the third person does the first two moves and adds something else on, etc.

3. Go swimming

My parents had a rotating timeshare while I was growing up and every summer we spent 1 week on vacation. During that week we spent most of our time in the swimming pool and I have great memories of the races my dad would initiate. He would choose a stroke and we would race from one end of the pool to the other. It was exhausting. Swimming laps is a great form of exercise too, but races add an element of fun.

4. Play sports

Whether or not your child is on a sports team, they can still benefit from playing different kinds of sports. Some of my fondest memories with my family are when we would play baseball in our backyard, or throw a frisbee at a park. Playing sports increases coordination. It is also a great way to involve other family members or children in the neighborhood in working out. Besides the common field and court sports, be creative in exploring other sports your child might find enjoyable.

Here are a few examples:
Running and obstacle course racing are quickly becoming a popular family event. Many of the popular obstacle races (e.g. Spartan) now include a child course, so the race day can now be a family event. This provides opportunity for ongoing exercise as both you and your child train for the race. It is also rewarding as your child learns to set and accomplish a goal.

  • Ice skating
  • Bowling
  • Rollerblading
  • Ultimate frisbee
  • Street hockey
  • Kickball
  • Badminton
  • Racquetball

5. Play the Wii or Xbox 360 Kinect

With the introduction of movement in video game systems, an entire new form of exercise has been born. It is perfect for cold days when exercising outside isn’t an option. Although Wii Fit was made especially for working out, other games such as “Just Dance” (which is available on the Wii and Kinect) can provide a good workout too.

Your example is what is most important in encouraging your child to develop good exercise habits and to instill the value of maintaining an active lifestyle. Explore many different types of exercise to find out what your child is most interested in. If they prefer arts and crafts to playing outside, then go on a nature hike to find supplies for a collage. If they like reading books, take a walk to a nearby library. Whatever your child’s interests are, there is a physical activity they will enjoy.

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